Call for best practice to fix ‘inconsistent’ approach to £10 billion cyber fraud

Greater consistency across policing will be the key to addressing the £10 billion problem of online fraud, according to a cross-party group of MPs.

Dec 6, 2017

Greater consistency across policing will be the key to addressing the £10 billion problem of online fraud, according to a cross-party group of MPs. Online fraud is now “too vast” for the Home Office to solve on its own but policing and banks must do more to help, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has found. Despite good work by City of London Police, forces’ approach to the crime is inconsistent and less than two thirds of police and crime commissioners (PCCs) mention it in their strategies. The PAC has now called on forces to prioritise online fraud and improve how they share best practice between themselves. It also urged the Government to ensure policing receives all the support it needs to identify and develop evidence of what works. The PAC said: “We put it to City of London Police that, despite its encouragement of other forces, the response from local forces remained inconsistent. “The City of London Police Commissioner reiterated the difficulties for forces of competing demands and the need to tackle the most serious crimes, but he also commented that ‘the Joint Fraud Taskforce (JFT), however perfect or imperfect it may be, has raised the profile of this crime type, without a doubt in my view, across law enforcement, across business and across government’. “The City of London Police also told us that, for law enforcement, part of what success would look like in tackling online fraud would be for there to be greater consistency across law enforcement.” Online fraud is estimated to have cost the economy £10 billion last year as it has become the most prevalent crime in England and Wales. Around two million cyber-related fraud incidents were reported last year but the true scale of the problem is unknown as only a fifth of incidents are reported to police. While the PAC described the establishment of the JFT in 2016 as a positive step, it added that “urgent action” is still needed to address the problem. Just 27 out of 41 PCCs refer to online fraud in their police and crime plans, which MPs heard has led to an “extremely patchy” approach from policing across the country. The Metropolitan Police Service’s Operation Falcon, which involves dedicated anti-fraud officers, was singled out as a “really good” example of how to tackle the crime. However, the report claims such models could be disseminated more widely. City of London Police, which leads on fraud, sends twice-yearly infographics to all forces breaking down fraud in their area and has so far completed 27 peer reviews on the subject. It also has best practice guides available and often sends out information on prevention and protection. The report also criticised banks for a disproportionately small response to online fraud given the scale of the problem. The PAC called on banks to take more responsibility for information sharing and properly fund information campaigns so their customers are offered more protection from fraud. Responding to the report, City of London Police Commissioner Ian Dyson said: “Partnerships are key to combatting fraud and the Joint Fraud Taskforce brings together a broad range of organisations with the necessary commitment to preventing fraud in our communities. “As the national lead force for fraud, City of London Police works with other police forces across the country to establish the necessary expertise to tackle and prevent fraud. “There is always more that can be done in this arena. We have a comprehensive plan to build on existing skills and knowledge to ensure police officers across the country have the tools they need to combat this crime.” Security minister Ben Wallace said the JFT is working in “innovative new ways to deliver a more effective response” to fraud. He added: “We have invested £5.5 million in an improved reporting system in Action Fraud, which will not only improve the service for individual victims, but will also introduce systems such as improved bulk reporting for business.”

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